As a new BuildForce report predicts labour shortages in the coming years, Alberta industry experts recognized that it must continue to be proactive in attracting people to the career and the province.
Frederic Vine, board of directors chair for the Alberta Construction Association (ACA), explained that the story of economic slump in the province will soon turn into a labour crunch as recovery is predicted.
“For the ACA, our primary focus is the ICI market,” said Vine. “Currently there is not a lot of work being procured for that in the near future. But we do anticipate that even with moderate growth over the next ten years, there will be huge demand for additional people needed at all construction levels – professionals all the way down to labourers.”
Vine explained that as growth begins to pick up in the coming decade, those that fled the recent economic dip in the province will not be there to soak up the labour demand.
“We need to continue to be proactive,” he said. “In the past 10 to 15 years we have been trying to encourage high school students to look at the construction industry as an option. Part of that is outreach to parents to get them to not discount construction careers. There is this thought that construction isn’t where they want to be pushing their children.”
Part of that is embracing the idea of what a modern construction worker is, he added.
“One of the things we would like to emphasize is the nature of the work in construction is transferring from traditional roles to high-tech roles. There is that need for people with advanced education to come into the industry.
With other provinces, like nearby B.C., experiencing booming construction sectors, Vine said Alberta is already competition for labour becoming tough.
“We are certainly experiencing that right now,” said Vine. “Many have moved to B.C. as the economy in Alberta has turned down and the B.C. economy is hot so it obviously draws people. Until the economy starts turning you can’t be trying to draw them back. There will be a natural ebb and flow.”
The coming years could also see major projects approved and started, like Teck’s Frontier Mine. Vine explained the jobs from the mine and energy projects in the oil sands would draw a lot of labour out of Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s a different lifestyle, the wages are higher,” said Vine. “People also stay in Calgary for that lifestyle and some move to those high-paid jobs in the oil sands for periods of time. That will continue to happen but if the Teck mine goes ahead, that will accelerate that for a period of time.”
BuildForce’s 2020-2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report looked at the construction sector’s future in each province for the coming decade. The report on Alberta stated that a strengthening residential sector in the near term and strengthening non-residential demand over the longer term will create the potential for modest growth over the next decade.
But the forecast warned that given expected industry retirements, this demand may leave the province with a deficit of 23,700 workers by the end of 2029.
BuildForce Canada’s provincial report forecasts employment requirements for both the residential and non-residential sectors to increase by nearly 23,400 workers (+13 per cent) between 2020 and 2029.